An obsession with beauty is a sign of a declining culture

Elizabeth Barnett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Published conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Abstract

The chapter focusses on the current cultural obsession with beauty and analyse its social causes and outcomes. My stance is that Western Civilisation is in decline yet never have we been as devoted to improving our looks through cosmetic and surgical beauty ritual. I consider and evaluate how population, demographics and economics relate to the increasing investment in beauty modification, both financial and emotional. With declining Western economics and growing exposure to media, many girls, women, and even men, spend less time working and more on their looks in the hope of a fast route to wealth, achieving celebrity status or marrying a wealthier spouse. A high maintenance beauty regime at considerable cost is a metaphoric lottery ticket for the possibility of a better life. The increase in the monetary value of the global and UK beauty market shows this trend is not abating. The democratisation of beauty and new ways to enhance and modify the assets we are born with are believed to aid social mobility and in this sense the obsession with beauty is no longer confined only to women. The chapter uses examples of young women in American and British cities, to gauge degrees of beauty obsession in relation to localised and global shifts in culture. If these girls were to invest as much time in their education as they do their looks then they would at least be academically knowledgeable. Is their beauty obsession a question of survival of the prettiest in an overcrowded and increasingly splintered capitalist economy or is it a death knell for industrialised society?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication(Re)Possessing Beauty: Politics, Poetics, Change
EditorsSallie Mcnamara
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
ISBN (Print)978-1-84888-125-9
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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